Working in the Jungle

Papaji rarely talks about the rigours of the work, but he does sometimes speak about the beauty of the jungle and of the many wild animals that lived there.

There were tigers in the forest as well, but they left us alone. They seemed to have their own food and water supplies, so they didn’t need to raid our camp. Since they were not hunted in our area, they were not afraid of showing themselves occasionally. I was once being driven down one of the dirt roads near the camp when my driver stopped and shouted, ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ He was so afraid, he climbed into the back with me because in our jeeps there were no doors next to the front seats. A mother tiger was sitting on the road, playing with one of her cubs. She must have heard the jeep approach, but she made no attempt to get out of the way. It was just beginning to get dark so I switched on the headlights to warn the tiger in a gentle way that a vehicle was approaching. She looked in our direction, but made no attempt to move. After enjoying their play for some time I started the engine and drove slowly towards her. As we drew near she collected her cub and took it off the road to safety. This was very unusual behaviour for a wild tiger, especially one which was guarding a young cub.

There were also lots of snakes in the neighbourhood of the camp, but they didn’t cause us so much trouble.

I was once driving from Bangalore to our mining camp in the forest. I stopped by a lake on the way because I needed to put some water in the radiator of my jeep. As I was walking down to the shoreline I saw an unusual sight: a snake, its rear portion immersed in a hole, had a frog in its mouth. The front half of the frog was still visible. It was alive, and it was still trying to catch flies to eat. It didn’t seem to be struggling; it was just carrying on with its usual business of catching flies and eating them. The snake was eating the frog and the frog was eating the flies.

My first thought was, ‘I should rescue this frog because it is still alive,’ but then another thought occurred to me. ‘This snake also needs to live. If I deprive it of its food, what will it do? And what about the flies? Don’t they also deserve to be saved? They are also being eaten. But if I save the flies by waving them away, the frog will get angry with me.’

I watched this little drama for a few moments before coming to a conclusion: ‘Leave them alone. None of this is your business. Don’t try to interfere in matters that don’t concern you. If you get involved with the affairs of the world, you always cause trouble to someone. It’s better to leave the world alone and let it take care of itself.’

Then another thought came: ‘This is how samsara works. Everyone is already in the jaws of death. No escape is possible, but who struggles? Who cares? No one. Everyone carries on eating as if nothing has happened.’

There is something inside us that death cannot reach. Snakes cannot bite it and swallow it. Once you know who you really are, death can never touch you again. The body can be eaten up, but once you have the knowledge that you are not the body, how can death affect you? When you reject your identity with the body and instead identify with what is real and permanent, the body will go on functioning, but its final disappearance will not trouble or affect you. Discarding a old shirt does not affect who you are because you know you are not the shirt. Once you stop believing that you are the body, you can let it die with the knowledge that your real nature is not going to be changed in any way. Don’t become attached to anything that is not permanent – that is the secret of eternal life. Discard everything that appears and disappears within time and hold on only to that which is timeless.

Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, pages 200-202
By David Godman